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Nicole Pape

The Laws of Attraction: Finding and Retaining Employees

How structured training, a positive culture, and proactive promotion can help screen printers address labor shortages for good.




HAVING A GREAT team around you is the holy grail of ownership. In fact, the extent to which team shapes a company’s growth trajectory is a major theme to emerge from my connections with different shops around the world.

However, building a great team is not something you can easily check off your list, then move on to the next thing. Attracting and retaining skilled, motivated employees requires continually strategizing about roles, incentives, growth opportunities and more to ensure your company is an appealing place to work. And yet, a flood of applications is by no means guaranteed, even after you’ve done the work. This brings us to our first law of attraction:

1. Be a Proactive Promoter

The first thing to look at is how you market to your prospects, who in this case are your future employees. From the outside in, do you look like a good place to work? If any of the following hold true, the answer is likely “yes.”

  • Job descriptions are clear. Clearly outlining responsibilities and expectations is critical to attracting candidates who understand and are genuinely interested in the role. Showcase that role’s USP (unique selling profile). Think about why you would take the role if the roles were reversed.
  • Wages and benefits are competitive. Beyond that, don’t hold benefits over employees heads or tout them as the No. 1 reason to work for you. Rather, think of them as a means of widening your reach by offering support to those who maybe could not afford it.
  • Employees are recruiters. Harness the power of your existing team by encouraging them to recommend candidates through an employee referral program. Treat your team right, and they will leverage their networks, find like-minded individuals, and bring you good people over time.
  • Schools are partners. Widen your reach by engaging with local educational institutions. Partnering with trade schools, colleges, and vocational programs can help establish connections with students interested in the printing industry, or just learning a valuable skill that earns them money after school.

2. Establish Structured Training

What does offering longevity look like on paper to someone you want to hire? What does it look like to the catcher who has not changed positions in far too long? Providing a foundation for growth ensures they will see your company not as a steppingstone, but a place to build a long-term career. A good foundation is likely to include:

  • Comprehensive onboarding. Develop a structured onboarding process that introduces new employees to the company’s values, processes, and safety protocols right away. Establish who you are a s a company, and present that as part of establishing who you want your employees to be. Company size doesn’t matter – your core identity shouldn’t depend on whether you’re a 1-person show or 500 people deep.
  • Hands-on training. Allow new hires to learn and practice various screen printing techniques under the guidance of experienced staff. Screen printing is a visual art, and it’s kinetic. You can’t understand the totality of this process by reading about it in a book. Getting in the trenches to show people the way honors their growth and proves the organization is invested in their success.
  • Continuous learning. Invest in ongoing training and workshops to keep employees updated with the latest industry best practices. Send as many people as you can to at least one trade show. Sign up your teams for industry webinars. Offer additional education on life skills like finances.
  • Mentorship opportunities. Pair newer employees with seasoned team members who can offer guidance and support for the long term. Such opportunities will also appeal to potential hires. When warranted, make sure you reward experienced team members for their empathy, compassion, and guidance.

“Making your company an appealing place to build a career is a long-term investment. You have to put forth the effort you expect from your team.”

3. Foster a Rewarding Culture

Culture is just a byproduct of the things you do consistently. If you consistently run your shop like a circus – stressed out, disorganized – then that’s the type of team you are creating and fostering. Retention is likely to drop, as are quality and performance metrics. If you’re consistently focused, purpose-driven, and willing to listen, your team will step up when you need them. Either way, the leader sets the tone of the crew. Also keep in mind that few things work better for attraction and retention than others knowing you have the “it” factor when it comes to company culture. What does a good company look like on paper? New hires and prospects are likely to be attracted to the following:

  • Open communication. Transparency ensures honest feedback between management and employees, allowing for feedback, suggestions, and addressing concerns. Transparency is key to a productive environment. It ensures honest feedback, and that employees’ concerns are addressed. It’s the difference between employees who want to work for you, and employees who are there only to collect a paycheck. Morning meetings and weekly updates can help keep things open and respectful for all.
  • Recognition. Celebrating individual and team accomplishments boosts morale and motivates employees to excel. Find reasons – any reasons – to celebrate your team, even in the smallest of accomplishments. Set a standard early that you “see” them and you know they work hard. Recognition with appreciation goes a long way when people look back on the past year (or past 10 years) at their job. It can be the difference between creating an hourly employee and an employee with tenure.
  • Employee Involvement. Involving employees in decision-making processes demonstrates that you value their input. Ask them point-blank questions, or take regular surveys. Use their feedback to identify and remedy your own blind spots or those of your management team. Remember, the most important position in the shop is the one often forgotten about.
  • Work-life balance. Offering flexible scheduling options can create an environment that supports employees’ personal well-being and family commitments. This may be easier said than done, but how might offsetting shifts or weekends do for employees’ quality of life? Could working four 10-hour days alleviate pressure while meeting the same goals normally accomplished in a typical 5-day schedule?
  • Development opportunities. Don’t underestimate the power of a path. Employees know you’re committed to their long-term success when there is a clear path to career growth and advancement within the company. Is there a clear road map to the life they want to live at work, perhaps in middle or even upper management? Meeting with other business owners is always a good way to garnish new ideas of how to develop team members more effectively.

All of this requires work. However, making your company an appealing place to build a career is a long-term investment. You have to put forth the effort you expect from your team for the long run. After all, you’re all in this boat together, and your success is a direct result of the team’s empowerment along the way.




Let’s Talk About It

Creating a More Diverse and Inclusive Screen Printing Industry

LET’S TALK About It: Part 3 discusses how four screen printers have employed people with disabilities, why you should consider doing the same, the resources that are available, and more. Watch the live webinar, held August 16, moderated by Adrienne Palmer, editor-in-chief, Screen Printing magazine, with panelists Ali Banholzer, Amber Massey, Ryan Moor, and Jed Seifert. The multi-part series is hosted exclusively by ROQ.US and U.N.I.T.E Together. Let’s Talk About It: Part 1 focused on Black, female screen printers and can be watched here; Part 2 focused on the LGBTQ+ community and can be watched here.

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